[Note: This post was quoted by the New York Times. Cool, huh? — RDC]
Yesterday I was here, in the stupidestly-designed courthouse on God’s brutally-baked brown desert earth — the Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.
It is truly a marvel of arrogance. Imagine being so utterly uninterested in anything besides how you’d like your box of Erector Set pieces to look like at the award ceremony that you design a massive building, meant for human habitation, that is actually a gigantic greenhouse that grabs scorching-hot sunbeams from one of the hottest atmospheres on the continent and just plays them across a gigantic, uncoolable interior atrium.
This monster has an evil twin in my own neighborhood, named after the entirely more prosaic former U.S. Senator and ur-fixer Anthony Alfonse D’Amato, in his home turf in Long Island. The U.S. courthouse for the Eastern District of New York is every bit as soulless and unconnected to how people use built space. Like the Arizona torture chamber, this one features cold, ornament-free, angular hard white spaces, a soaring atrium and a complete denial of the human spirit. Both feature vast plazas requiring five minutes of walking from the curb to the front door that, when shown on the architect’s drawings, must have depicted lunchtime building workers gaily eating their lunches, taking in the sun, flirting and strumming guitars — a true communitarian dream in federal jurisprudential space, and far enough from any possible truck bomb to make those shared moments entirely carefree.
Neither one of these plazas ever has a single person relaxing in them, in reality. The one in Central Islip is too windblown to hang out in, the D’Amato tower truly epitomizing the concept of a white elephant as the only building of its scale for what must be 20 miles all around — a largely empty monument to federally funded megalomania. On almost any day the sun beats off the bright white surfaces so intensely that polarized lenses are de rigeur and blinded lawyers quickly scurry across the plaza through the revolving-door entrance and into the heartless, icy lobby.
But this same formula truly amounts to a miniature Judicial Conference death valley in Phoenix. (continued at Likelihood of Success)